June 04, 2017


WarMachineAlthough crushed under the smothering weight of director/writer David Michôd's relentless voice-over-narration, a lacking vision of satirical tone, and undisciplined editing (courtesy of Peter Sciberras), “War Machine” enjoys considerable lift from the efforts of its (mostly) solid cast — Topher Grace go to your room. Still, you couldn’t be blamed for not wanting to endure all the talky narration (from a character you don't even see until half way though the movie) to get at the story hiding underneath.

This Netflix-produced movie is inspired by Michael Hastings’ 2010 book “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War In Afghanistan,” but the author of “Animal Kingdom” (Michôd) doesn’t grasp first rule of screenwriting; 'show, don’t tell.' There isn’t a single thing that Scoot McNairy’s narrating journalist Sean Cullen tells us that we wouldn’t better receive without the audio-present redundancies. It feels as if the projectionist were substituting audio from a documentary over a feature film. Disaster.

War Machine

Brad Pitt’s General Glen McMahon (The Glenimal) would fit neatly into Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” a similarly themed anti-war film that this movie can’t otherwise hope to aspire to. Pitt’s character is based on General Stanley McChrystal, whose exposure as a rogue U.S. military asshole of epic proportions became public knowledge after Michael Hastings’ feature article (“The Runaway General”) for Rolling Stone Magazine (in 2010). Brad Pitt colors his warmonger persona with features that boldly boarder on the cartoonish. He keeps his right eye in a near-permeant squint, and contorts the fingers of his hands when using them to add emphasis in convincing those around him to agree with his every crackpot idea. Dude is a real piece of work. Meg Tilly steals the movie as the General’s doting wife Jeannie McMahon. If only the filmmakers better knew how to balance Tilly’s authenticity with the satirical zing they never attain. Part of the problem is that, regardless of how tweaky Brad Pitt makes General Glen, the guy doesn't stack up as the anti-hero you want to build your story on. It should have been the reporter's story to begin with.  

There may well be a good movie hiding somewhere beneath this film’s ton of narration and poorly edited construction. I’d like to take a shot at cleaning it up, that’s for sure. The predictable soundtrack on display would be the second thing to go; I don't care if Nick Cave was responsible. 

You do come away from “War Machine” with a clear understanding of the utter worthlessness of America’s copyrighted Afghanistan War. And, you’ll know exactly what an “insurgent” is and is not after watching this frustrating film.  


Not Rated. 122 mins. (C) (Two Stars — out of five / no halves)

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